Entree salads are one of my favorite things to serve for dinner. I can usually serve all the components of the meal in one dish with only a small amount of cooking. (The leftovers are fantastic for lunch the next day… always a bonus!)
A classic French Nicoise salad has a lot of elements that require preparation, but it’s such a delicious salad that I consider it worth the effort. Plus, it looks like a beautiful work of art when you’re done!
What Is Nicoise Salad?
Nicoise salad gets its name from the Mediterranean French city of Nice, where it originated. The exact ingredients used in a Nicoise salad vary from place to place, so what follows in this recipe is the version that I prefer.
The trademark of this salad is a lovely array of colors, textures, and flavors from a mixture of raw, marinated, and cooked vegetables as well as hard-boiled eggs, potatoes, and tuna on top of lettuce.
How to Make a French Tuna Salad
I know this recipe seems like a lot of steps… and it kind of is. But I promise it’s worth it! Plus, I love the variety of veggies, herbs, and healthy fats you are able to pack into this salad.
Quick meal prep tip: After cooking the potatoes, don’t throw out the potato water. Just scoop the potatoes out into a separate bowl and use the hot water to blanch the green beans. You want them to be just slightly tender and bright green, with some crunch to them still.
While the potatoes and green beans are cooking, I cut the tomatoes into wedges and peel and cut the hard-boiled eggs. If you don’t have this on hand, try this Instant Pot method for a quick and hands-off way to make awesome eggs.
Nicoise olives are the obvious choice for a Nicoise salad, but they are harder to find. You can easily sub another kind that you like.
If I make my own salad dressing, I make a vinaigrette by shaking olive oil, lemon juice, herbs, and Dijon mustard together in a small mason jar. Of course, a store-bought herb or Italian dressing (made with healthy oils like avocado or olive) would work as well. I like this one.
Nicoise Salad Recipe
For the Vinaigrette
- ⅓ cup lemon juice or red wine vinegar
- ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup shallot (finely chopped)
- 2 TBSP fresh basil (finely chopped)
- 2 tsp fresh tarragon (finely chopped)
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
For the Salad
- 1 small red onion
- 4 radishes
- 1 small cucumber
- 1 lb baby red potatoes or fingerling potatoes
- ½ lb green beans (trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces)
- 2 medium heads Boston lettuce or butter lettuce
- 3 cans oil-packed tuna
- 6 hard boiled eggs (peeled and quartered lengthwise)
- 3 small tomatoes (cored and cut into wedges)
- ¼ cup Nicoise olives (or other olive)
- 4 anchovies (optional)
- In a jar, combine all the ingredients for the vinaigrette, and shake or whisk to mix.
For the Salad
- Thinly slice the onion, radishes, and cucumber and place in a small bowl.
- Pour ¼ cup of the vinaigrette over them, stir, and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Boil the potatoes for about 10 minutes or until tender.
- Remove from the water, reserving the water for the beans.
- Allow the potatoes to cool slightly until they can be handled and then cut them into quarters and place them in a medium size bowl.
- Drizzle the potatoes with another ¼ cup of the vinaigrette, stir gently to combine, and set aside.
- Add the green beans to the same boiling water as the potatoes and boil for about 5 minutes or until tender, but not too soft.
- Remove and rinse in cold water.
- Rinse the lettuce leaves and gently tear into pieces.
- Arrange the lettuce on a serving platter.
- Drain the tuna and place it in the center of the lettuce.
- Place the onions/cucumber/radish mixture next to the tuna.
- Arrange the potatoes, green beans, eggs, tomatoes, olives, and anchovies if using, around the center.
- Drizzle everything with the remaining vinaigrette and serve immediately.
Do you like to serve salad for dinner? What’s your favorite?
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